1775 – 1815 Whalers & Sealers

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Link – 1775 to 1815

In 1774, Britain had withdrawn its garrison from West Falkland leaving behind the necessary marks and signs of sovereignty. Spain, in East Falkland, was cautious in its response. So cautious that it was not until 1776 that they confirmed the British garrison’s departure. Why so careful? Because so many ships were still to be seen in the harbour of Port Egmont. But they were not the vessels of the Royal Navy, they were the whalers and sealers. This was the beginning of the first oil industry – the grease for Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

1574 French Woodcut

1574 French Woodcut

It is often suggested that the British did not return to West Falkland between 1774 and 1833 but this is a fallacy. In reality, Britain never left. With the help of the New England loyalists, British ships dominated the oil trade during this period, importing tons of valuable whale and seal oil, together with bone and others by-products. A trade worth thousands of pounds then, millions in today’s terms, the Southern Whale Fishery was the first enterprise overseen by Britain’s powerful Board of Trade. An industry worthy of protection. It also fuelled exploration to find more. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands from Cook, others would follow.

And Britain was not silent with regard either to Spain’s American pretensions, or its own claims to the Falklands, as evidenced by the Board of Trade determination of 1789; the diminution of Spanish claims with the Nootka Sound Convention in 1790 and the rejection of French demands for a place in the Falklands in 1801.

This period also saw Spain’s withdrawal from East Falkland – again leaving the marks and signs of its sovereignty. Spanish dominance in the Americas was coming to an end. An Empire that had run out of steam. Napoleon rang its death knell, forcing Spain to find a new ally – Britain.

Both Spain and Britain, when leaving, had intended to return to the disputed Falkland Islands.

Only one would.


Relevant Resources:

William Clayton to The Royal Society Jan 1 1776 republished in the Caledonian Mercury August 6 1776

Loberos extranjeros en las Islas Malvinas, 1790 – Arredondo a Campo Sept 23 1790

Official Papers relative to the dispute between the Courts of Great Britain and Spain on the subject of the Ships Captured in Nootka Sound

A Narrative of the Negotiations occasioned by the dispute between England and Spain in the Year 1790 by Burges 1791

A Voyage to the South Atlantic and round Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean for the purpose of extending the Spermaceti Whale Fishery …  by Capt. James Colnett 1798

Official papers relative to the prelimininaries of London and the Treaty of Amiens 1802

Pièces officielles relatives aux préliminaires de Londres et au Traite D’Amiens

The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery … and an Account of the Present State of the Falkland Islands by James Grant 1803

Instructions to Pablo Guillen January 8 1811

Letter of January 8, 1811, instructing Pablo Guillen, on Spain’s withdrawal, to leave behind a notice at the garrison site claiming the Island of Soledad.

Spanish Records of Departure from Soledad 1811

The Nootka Sound Controversy by William R. Manning 1905

Voyages to South Georgia 1795-1820 by A. G. E. Jones 1971

The Falkland Islands in the European Treaty System 1493-1833 by Jorg Fisch 1983